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Hello everyone,

This question is more for the seasoned veterans out there, but of course any suggestions would be appreciated. Last weekend I was at Miami of Ohio University's steelband festival with Michael Spiro and some of Indiana pan folks, and after Spiro's clinic on Afro-Cuban instruments Liam Teague asked him a question that I had never considered... The rhythm used as the typical count-off for Panorama tunes sounds like a Cuban rhythm, isn't normally heard anywhere else in steelband music besides the starting count, and isn't used in any other Trinidadian music (that any of us could think of).

First of all, if I am mistaken with anything above please let me know. Otherwise, do any of you have any thoughts on where this call-in came from, how long it's been used in steelband, etc? I guess I've just taken that rhythm for granted, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone speak of it's history. I understand that Latin music of all sorts have influenced and become part of the steelband musical palette, and have done so since pan's early history. It seems unexpected for that specific rhythm to be singled out and put in such a prominent place in steelband music, isolated from any sort of "Latin" section but instead counting off the band to start the piece.

I've asked a few people about this, and they have only theorized that the rhythm may have come from the 50's, when mambos were especially popular with steelbands. I would love to know the history of this rhythm... How far back has it been used (pre-Panorama?) Did the count-off actually come from mambos, rumbas or some other type of Cuban music; did it come from Venezuelan or other Latin American source; or whether it came from a Trinidadian source? How, when, where and by whom did this phrase become introduced and adopted into steelband music?

If any of you have thoughts on this, I would love to hear them! If there is anyone who can tell me if bands used that rhythm in the first Panorama, that would at least be a start. We've all heard this rhythm used to count off tunes, and I imagine it is understood by pannists across the globe. Until Liam raised this question, I had never considered where the pattern comes from and why and how it has become such an important part of steelband's musical identity. I'm not sure if anyone can give me an exact answer, but I would love to hear any suggestions people may have. Thanks everyone!

Life for Pan,

Eric Mannweiler

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Yes that count (depending on who is playing it, because I've heard different variations of it) is definitely a variation of a west african Drum call. Its was (and still is) used as a call to begin the Rhythym, call to change the rhythm or tempo and also an alert for the Dancers. It is also use a call to end the Dance/Rhythm. Its similar to what is played on the Guagua in the cuban guaguanco
Yeah I hadn't considered the West African direct-influence possibility, but you're right- the gua gua plays a pattern very similar to the cascara rhythm. The cascara is just a little more closely resembling this Panorama count-off. Do you know what area of West Africa the pattern you are describing comes from?
I like what you're saying Mr.Crab Callaloo and also Glenroy you really know your iron Bro.As Crab said all of our rhythms came from Africa. Mother Africa has influenced almost all of the Caribean Islands and especially in Trinidad we are also influenced by Father India.Indian rhythms are just as rhythmic and complicated as African Rhythmns.And in Trinidad we have the perfect blend between them....And then you can't leave out the influence of the Europeans  almost all of the music theory we use to notate music is done European style.So our Music is really a peleau of lots of influences from east west north and south.

The countoff rhythm varies in content according to the rhythmic signature of the arranger,

also sometimes even in length. There is no uniformity in its rhythm as in say a clave beat. 

Where it is uniform is in its function of getting 120 minds to focus on their entry.

Puzzling to be are the arrangers whose countoff does not include the final downbeat at which the band erupts.

I think some people are missing point, i think the quedtion was about the type of count off and not about what was used and/or who started first, counting off a band always was, the band has to be counted off to start. The thing here is about the rhythmic structure as someone pointed out earlier in this discussion with some arrangers using 123 or 12--1234. it's the rhythm used leading up to the actual count, which basically is used to prepare the band for the actual count. And the phrasing that is being used by many arrangers now is what was first heard in the west bands. So people, please don't get caught up in a back and forth about who was first in counting off bands, that was so from the begining.

A person who would have most of the early panorama recordings might be Neville Aleong. If ( a big IF) you could get him to let you do the research, there might be a chance of finding something that could bring focus to the answer .  However, on a scale of I to 10 I'd put the odds of getting an answer to your question at about minus 2.


The main question of all the language by the writer is, where the call in came from. Since there were orchestras before the pan was an instrument, we in the pan world got it from a "genre" of music. I will say it was from the latin tempo, because that was the only tempo that was close to the calypso beat when I was a teenager.


As far as the other commentors who mentioned the staright 1-2-3 and 1-2-3-4 count, and the change to the rhythmic taps before the 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4, I will choose Mr. Kernahan's answer that it was Mr. Ray Holman, since he was into pan before boogsie.

I think that the only two arrangers who stayed with the straight count were Mr. Jit Samaroo and the late Mr. Clive Bradley.

you all will have to forgive me maybe I am deaf or maybe I am dumb or both, but I had to listen to the count of the bands this year and I heard different count in for several bands All Stars stuck to the traditional ringing of a bell playing a one, one one, followed by a simple 1, 2, 3, 4 count some used the 1, 2, 3, 4 count on the cowbell, others rapped on the pans a tradition that although was not started by Boogsie it was popularized by him when he extended his run up, there is no specific beat or rythym to this intro in the past arrangers and people counting in the bands tapped a few bars of some jam in the song as a run up to keep the players in line with the groove, Eric pan is a spontaneous reaction and music is not allways graphic it is like cooking even though the cook tells you a teaspoon he never uses an actual teaspoon it may be more like a pinch with the measurements being a guideline, I am sure with the exception of the simple count and the use of a jamline that most people just use a catchy rythym to stir up the band and do not even think of the phrase but more the tempo, yes in the early days they used a piece of iron to count in, the rythym is just a typical table tapping that people will do when they respond to calypso music, which is shango like, but not a deliberate organized style, something like the one sided chook the mid eastern people make when they respond to music


Well put, Sweet Eustace!
This is very interesting, but as far as i can recall, the first band i heard with this count was Phase 11 under the leader of Boogsie. I cannot recall the year, but if we go through the Panorama finals from the 1990 years and onwards we must identify the scource.
I first heard the count with Ray Holman and CIBC Starlift way back in the late sixties or early seventies.It may have been used by someone else before that.What I've been told is that the bands started to tighten up with their starts when points given out for a smooth performance could be made or lost right at the very start of the tune.Hope this helps.
Did Michael have any thoughts when liam asked him?


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